With his protective goggles and golden locks, Ruff – he goes by just one name – has the swagger of a rock or sports star.
But Ruff’s swagger came to a halt last fall. He was diagnosed with a torn ACL – an anterior cruciate ligament – and the prognosis was a costly surgery. As many star athletes know, at worst a torn ACL is a career-ending injury. At best, it means lots of rehab after the surgery and the nagging voice in your head that repeats over and over, “Don’t do that, you may get hurt again.”
Ruff underwent a treatment some consider controversial. Dr. Mark Kimble of Rock Hill gently studied and adjusted Ruff’s back with a tool that looked like a big syringe but has no needle. A laser focused deep heat into the tissue of his inflamed knee.
Now, just two months after his injury, Ruff is back on his game, running just as fast as ever while barking and wagging his tail.
Yes, Ruff is a dog – a 10-year-old cocker spaniel with floppy ears, inquisitive eyes and a cold nose.
But he wasn’t like that last fall when his owners, Bert and Sally Baire of Rock Hill, noticed him limping.
One vet said it was a torn ligament in the knee. A second vet said it was a torn ACL and recommended surgery for about $2,500.
Sally Baire told Kimble about Ruff’s pain when she was at Kimble Chiropractic for a back adjustment.
His response was, “Bring Ruff in,” explaining that he and his father, Donald, have cared for about 60 dogs, cats, even a squirrel, since starting Kimble Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation several years ago.
It wasn’t the first time patients have asked about their pets’ pain. Mark Kimble remembered that first time. A patient told him about her Dachshund who had a bad case of road rash and was dragging its leg. The owner brought the dog to the chiropractic office, and Kimble treated it in the laundry room. Within a few minutes, “he was walking and barking,” Kimble said.
Dr. Roger DeHaan, who describes himself as a “holistic” veterinarian, reports similar success. DeHaan, who lives in Kings Mountain, has a degree in veterinary medicine, is certified as an animal chiropractor and in the veterinary orthopedic manipulation, or “VOM,” techniques used by the Kimbles.
His first case was a Rottweiler in pain. The owner wanted to put him down, but DeHaan convinced him to come to his house for treatment. In just five minutes the Rottweiler was “running around like a puppy,” DeHaan said.
Advocates of VOM say it can treat a variety of ailments from lameness to incontinence, esophageal problems and digestive disorders. The Kimbles and DeHaan took many hours of training to become VOM certified.
Not everyone endorsed the efforts of the Kimbles or DeHaan.
A 2007 study of pain by the American Animal Hospital Association cautioned that “chiropractic methods potentially can cause injury through the use of inappropriate technique or force.”
How it works
Practitioners of VOM locate the areas of an animal’s nervous system that have “fallen out of communications.”
These areas – subluxations, in medical jargon; dislocations of joints, bones or organs, in simple terms – can be found through gentle probing of an animal’s spine. While dogs can’t talk, VOM practitioners are looking for responses, much like the proverbial knee-jerk reaction you get at your doctor’s physical. But the responses are more obvious in animals. Even if they can’t talk, they communicate with their doctors, said the Kimbles and DeHaan.
Once the problem areas are located, Kimble makes more passes with the adjustment tools.
In Ruff’s case, laser treatment followed the adjustments, sending heat deep into his tissues to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Dr. Donald Kimble cautioned it doesn’t always work, but estimated their success rate between 90 and 95 percent. He said they can usually tell if the treatments are working after just a couple of visits. Animals that don’t respond are referred back to their vets, he said.
Last week’s treatment for Ruff was his eighth. Cost so far for the Baires is less than $500, one-fifth the cost of surgery.
But more importantly, “there’s no limping at all, and that tickles us pink,” Sally Baire said.
The Kimbles, dog lovers themselves, also revel in the successes of Ruff and other dogs they’ve treated. Mark Kimble says part of their success story is their love of animals. He has two dogs, a German shepherd-Lab mix and a mutt, who have received VOM treatments.
His father said the proof comes when a healed animal leaves their clinic, located in a small house behind the chiropractic office on North Avenue.
“It’s just fun,” Donald Kimble said. “Dogs can’t talk, but there’s their wagging tails, jumping on and off the table and into pickup trucks or cars when they leave. That’s rewarding.”